NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans’ homeland security department must release a map showing the locations of its 400 clearly marked crime cameras, a Louisiana appeals court has ruled in a victory for civil rights groups and a public defender.
The state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal, in a ruling dated Thursday, upheld an earlier ruling by a New Orleans judge in a lawsuit filed on behalf of public defender Laura Bixby. She said a map showing crime camera locations would help with her clients’ defense because the cameras’ videos could include exonerating evidence.
The camera locations are not secret. The cameras in question are clearly visible on utility poles throughout the city. They are marked with police logos and have bright flashing red and blue lights to deter would-be criminals.
Still, city attorneys held that maps or information on the cameras held by the New Orleans Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness office was exempt from state public records law. They pointed to a provision in the law exempting records on investigative equipment held by intelligence agencies.
“The record shows that NOHSEP is not an intelligence agency, nor does it have any investigatory or law enforcement functions,” the appellate opinion said.
The judges also rejected the argument that producing a map would be overly burdensome for the city.
“We’re pleased with the Court’s decision that ensures New Orleans public defenders will no longer be denied access to this critical information as they work to ensure a stronger, more effective justice system for all,” said Alanah Odoms Hebert, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana. The ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed the lawsuit.
The city did not immediately respond to a request for comment.